Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Creativity in Unexplained Places

I'm always interested on how other people create things. Whether they build something, write something or draw something, it's always worthy of examination. The artists themselves might not be so interesting but their work almost always is.

That said, I found an interesting article here that shows a series of drawings while the artist is under LSD.

Now, I remember this sort of thing mostly by hearsay back in the sixties and seventies. I'd never actually seen the drawings. I'd always heard that the artist had evaluated his work afterwards and decided that LSD hurt creativity rather than helped it.

The left image was a drawing by the artist prior to the effects of the drug. The right image was of the same subject, the experimenter, at the height of the LSD experience. The artist had changed mediums from charcoal to tempera.

Art is a product of seeing as much as anything and it is clear the artist was seeing things differently.

It would be very interesting to have the full interview, find out what the artist thought he was doing and how he evaluated it. For example, if the artist didn't like the second image was it because the image was poor or a poorly executed version of what he was imagining?

Further, the gossip I heard about this story suggested that the LSD did not enhance "creativity". Was the rumor in fact accurate or was it a cultural response to a threat? We see memes like that across email all the time these days. The whole fear of Obama manifesting as the birther movement.

(I imagine the birther psychology to go something like this:
  1. Obama doesn't look or act as I think a president should look or act
  2. The American system is something I value.
  3. The American system could never legitimately produce a president that doesn't look or act as Obama does.
  4. Therefore the presidency of Obama is illegitimate.
  5. Therefore Obama cannot be an American.
  6. Seek, therefore, alternate explanations to Obama's presidency.

So many questions. So little time.

Thanks to The Jailbreak and Dude Craft for this one.


  1. I have not taken LSD, but I have taken other types of hallucinogens (actually, just one kind--mushrooms). At the time, and I was convinced I wanted to be a concept artist for video games and movies.

    In the handful of times I took mushrooms (with the exception of the first time), I attempted drawing at several stages of the drugs influence. I normally draw in a realistic style. What came out under the influence were long flowing lines and single eyes sketched half opened (most times, drawing nature seemed most interesting: hills, trees, clouds). It's not that my hands or mind were fighting against me (as it might seem in the comparative drawings above), but it's the minds eye that undergoes the biggest shift in perception, and the hands are drawing from a shifting model, growing model inside the brain. The end result of most of my drawings were very small sketches, as it was almost impossible to hold an entire scene inside of me long enough to draw it.

    But the big question is the sort of romantic notion that hallucinogenic drugs make one more creative. To a degree, I'll admit truth in that. The most rewarding part of mushrooms was not the actually trip, but the days that followed. Being creative while on a trip is rather chaotic and most things that pop into my mind were strange beyond creative usefulness. But afterworlds--for the first week after taking a dose, there is definitely a creative renewal. Thoughts and ideas are all treated reverently (along with almost every other aspect of life).

    Hope that proves illuminating. Oh, one more thing: I have this horror anthology called “The Foundations of Fear” edited by David G. Hartwell. Inside is a story that Phillip K. Dick was commissioned to do under the influence LSD: “Faith of our Fathers”. It's strange. And also very, very good.


  2. Going from charcoal to tempura *is* a bit of a jump. From sushi to tempura would have been easier.

    Or maybe to tempera....

  3. --which explains the difference. Now painting in fugu might have been fun. And exciting.